Two WPA Pioneers: Ednah Shepherd Thomas and Joyce Steward

Edited by Susan H. McLeod, David Stock, and Bradley T. Hughes
Designed by Mike Palmquist.

CoverAs Barbara L'Eplattenier and Lisa Mastrangelo have demonstrated in Historical Studies on Writing Program Administration (2004), the work of administering a writing program began long before a title accompanied the work. Because little was published in the early years about WPA work as such, recovering information from unpublished sources becomes paramount to understanding the early period of the profession. The materials here—a memoir, an oral history, and an out-of-print pamphlet on assessing writing—give us important information about writing program administration at the University of Wisconsin, Madison from just after World War II up until the early 1980s. During that long period, the writing program was overseen by just two women, first Ednah Shepherd Thomas and then Joyce Steward, allowing for remarkable continuity through some turbulent times, including the abolition of the first-year writing course in 1969. (Readers who want to learn more about the abolition of the first-year writing course in 1969 should consult David Fleming's 2011 book, From Form to Meaning: Freshman Composition and the Long Sixties, 1957-1974.)

To fully understand the contributions of these two WPA pioneers, readers should start with the introductory essay by McLeod and Hughes. Chronologically, The Memoir of Ednah Shepard Thomas (written for her children) comes next, along with her now out-of-print book on evaluating writing, which she first wrote for the TAs she trained and supervised. The memoir provides a detailed account of Thomas's pioneering contributions to writing program administration in the Freshman English program at University of Wisconsin-Madison from the post-World War II period through the turbulent 1960s. Finally, the oral history that Brad Hughes conducted with Joyce Steward will give some insight into the development of one of the early university writing labs.

Publications

Two WPA PioneersUnderstanding the Stories of Two WPA Pioneers: Ednah Thomas and Joyce Steward, by Susan H. McLeod and Bradley T. Hughes

When we discuss the history of writing program administration, it is convenient to begin with 1979—the date that marks the founding of the Council of Writing Program Administrators. But as Barbara L'Eplattenier and Lisa Mastrangelo have pointed out (Historical Studies on Writing Program Administration), the practices we associate with WPA work began long before that date. With their observation in mind, this article presents the stories of two writing program administrators, Ednah Shepard Thomas and Joyce S. Steward, whose careers as what we would now term writing program administrators ran from 1945 to 1982, a time span during which they provided continuity of administrative leadership for a program that underwent some radical changes in the 1960s.

Thomas MemoirThe Memoir of Ednah Shepard Thomas, by Ednah Shepard Thomas. Edited by David Stock

The Memoir of Ednah Shepard Thomas offers an in-depth look at what it was to be a Writing Program Administrator during the period from after World War II up to the time of the early 1970s, a time for which we have little in the way of documentation for the work of early WPAs. Written at a time when the civil rights movement and the women's movement were just beginning to influence the way one thought and wrote about issues of race, class, and gender, this memoir offers insights into a period of time when the field was only beginning to come into focus. A foreword by Susan McLeod, an introduction and extensive footnotes by David Stock, and an afterword by David Fleming contextualize the memoir and highlight its relevance to scholars, teachers, and program administrators in composition-rhetoric. As a local history of writing program administration in its pre-professional era, the memoir offers a vital counternarrative to David Fleming's (2011) award-winning account of the abolition of UW-Madison's Freshman English program in 1969-70. This book is available for free download in PDF format on this site. It is also available in print format from University Press of Colorado online as well as from any online or brick-and-mortar bookstore

Evaluating Student ThemesEvaluating Student Themes, by Ednah Shepard Thomas

One of the first handbooks on how to evaluate student themes, this booklet became a University of Wisconsin Press all-time bestseller. One sentence rings as true today as it did when it was first published: "No student should be left without hope and no student should be left without challenge" (v).

Evaluating Student ThemesAn Interview with Joyce Steward, by Bradley T. Hughes. Edited by Susan H. McLeod.

This oral history interview with Joyce Steward was conducted by Brad Hughes in July of 2002, two years before her death. It is provided here courtesy of the Oral History Program at the University of Wisconsin Madison Archives.

ListenListen to the Interview

BlogOur Writing Center's Founder: Professor Joyce Steward, by Bradley T. Hughes

View the blog post and comments that celebrate the distinguished career of Joyce Steward, founder of the Writing Laboratory at the University of Wisconsin Madison.

About the Curators

Susan H. McLeod is Research Professor and Distinguished Scholar of the University of California Santa Barbara Writing Program.

David Stock is Assistant Professor and Coordinator of the Writing Center at Brigham Young University.

Bradley T. Hughes is Director of the Writing Center and Writing Across the Curriculum at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

Publication Information

Thomas, Ednah Shepard. (2017). The Memoir of Ednah Shepard Thomas. Edited by David Stock, Perspectives on Writing. Fort Collins, Colorado: The WAC Clearinghouse. Available at https://wac.colostate.edu/books/perspectives/thomas-steward/memoir.pdf

Thomas, Ednah Shepard. (1955/2017). Evaluating Student Themes. Madison: Univeristy of Wisconsin Press. Republished by the WAC Clearinghouse, 2017. Available at https://wac.colostate.edu/books/perspectives/thomas-steward/themes.pdf

McLeod, Susan H., and Bradley T. Hughes. (2017). Understanding the Stories of Two WPA Pioneers: Ednah Thomas and Joyce Steward. Fort Collins, Colorado: The WAC Clearinghouse. Available at https://wac.colostate.edu/perspectives/thomas-steward/pioneers.pdf

Hughes, Bradley T. (2017). An Interview with Joyce Steward. Edited by Susan H. McLeod. Fort Collins, Colorado: The WAC Clearinghouse. Available at https://wac.colostate.edu/perspectives/thomas-steward/interview.pdf

Hughes, Bradley T. (2002). An Interview with Joyce Steward. MP3 Audio File. Oral History Program at the University of Wisconsin Madison Archives. Available at https://wac.colostate.edu/books/perspectives/thomas-steward/interview.mp3

Hughes, Bradley T. (2012, Sept. 10). Our Writing Center's Founder: Professor Joyce Steward. The Writing Center @ the University of Wisconsin Madison. Available at http://writing.wisc.edu/blog/?p=2462

Web Publication Date: March 5, 2017.

Contact Information:
Susan H. McLeod: mcleod@writing.ucsb.edu
David Stock: david_stock@byu.edu
Bradley T. Hughes: bthughes@wisc.edu

Perspectives on Writing

Series Editors: Susan H. McLeod, University of California, Santa Barbara; Rich Rice, Texas Tech University

Acrobat Reader DownloadThe materials provided her are available in whole and in part in Adobe's Portable Document Format (PDF).


The Memoir of Ednah Shepard Thomas is provided courtesy of the family of Ednah Shepard Thomas and is released under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 United States License. 400 pages, with notes and illustrations. Available in print from University Press of Colorado as well as from any online or brick-and-mortar bookstore. Available in PDF format for free download from this site. Assessing Student Themes is Copyright © 1955 by the Regents of the University of Wisconsin and is presented here with permission. The audio recording of the oral history interview with Joyce Steward is provided courtesy of the Oral History Program at the University of Wisconsin Madison Archives.Other work is copyrighted by the authors and is presented here under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 United States License. You may view these materials. You may print personal copies of these materials. You may link to this page. You may not reproduce these materials on another Web site.